Your Thyroid is Very Sensitive
Not only is thyroid disease incredibly common (levothyroxine is the #1 or #2 most prescribed medication in the United States!) it’s also commonly ignored and/or undertreated.
What do I mean?
Most doctors look at treating thyroid disease like a simple equation:
If only it were that easy!
If it were then we wouldn’t have the thousands and thousands of thyroid patients who are unsatisfied with their current thyroid management (see numerous studies (1) and surveys on the topic).
Why the discrepancy?
Well, obviously, the thyroid is more complicated than one simple lab test (the TSH).
We aren’t going to talk about the complexities of thyroid lab testing management here but what you need to know is that your thyroid is exquisitely sensitive to a number of factors.
This is both a good and a bad thing.
Bad in the sense that these problems can obviously make your thyroid worse.
But good in the sense that it means there are factors that YOU can manage on your own which can influence your thyroid gland for the better!
And just because you aren’t feeling well right now doesn’t mean you have to stay that way forever.
There are several things that you may be doing (perhaps even unknowingly) that can negatively impact your thyroid.
And these are the things we are going to talk about right now.
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6 Things you may not realize you’re doing that damage your thyroid
Where does this list come from?
From my own personal experience in treating thyroid patients over the last 5 years and in paying attention to thousands of comments on Facebook posts, youtube videos, podcasts, and blog comments.
By FIXING them you stand to improve your thyroid function in a natural and healthy way which may make your thyroid medication MORE effective and may even help you lower your dose over time.
With that in mind, let’s jump in:
#1. Not sleeping enough.
The first bad habit that I
Here’s the problem:
Most (but not all) people who suffer from thyroid disease tend to be women.
We could talk all day about why I think this is and the various factors that women face that cause this phenomenon but we won’t focus on it here.
One important reason worth noting, however, is that women tend to experience autoimmune disease at much higher rates compared to men (2).
And since the #1 cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disease) you can see why many women suffer from both Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism.
What you need to understand is that SLEEP plays a very important role in regulating not only your thyroid but also OTHER hormones and, perhaps most importantly, inflammatory pathways.
So what happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
For starters, a lack of sleep (as few as 6 hours per night) DIRECTLY causes a negative impact on your thyroid.
We know that people sleeping fewer than 6 hours per night have lower than normal free T3 and free T4 levels (3) (your free and active thyroid hormones).
We also know that people who don’t get enough sleep have issues with cortisol (more on that below), they are MUCH more likely to gain weight (4), suffer from insulin resistance, and even have problems with their sex hormones.
If that wasn’t enough, we also know that decreased sleep leads to INFLAMMATION.
And inflammation is the primary driver of conditions such as Hashimoto’s and even hypothyroidism (albeit indirectly).
What’s unfortunate here is that sleep doesn’t get nearly the attention that it deserves.
Mostly because it isn’t a ‘sexy’ therapy, at least when compared to new and fancy medical devices, medications, or supplements.
But there is nothing better for your thyroid than good old-fashioned sleep.
As a thyroid patient, you should be focusing on getting at LEAST 8 hours of sleep per night.
And, in the beginning, you might find that you need even more than this.
Don’t be alarmed if your body wants to sleep 9+ hours.
But as you sleep more you will notice an improvement in your energy levels, your thyroid hormone status, and your sex hormones.
#2. Not taking thyroid-specific supplements.
The next thing that most people miss out on is the use of thyroid-specific supplements.
What do I mean?
I am talking about supplements that are directed SPECIFICALLY at your thyroid.
Most people are already taking supplements of some kind.
But very few are taking supplements that target the specific pathways that thyroid patients care about most.
I’m talking about pathways such as:
- Thyroid hormone production
- Thyroid hormone conversion
- Thyroid receptor sensitivity
- The thyroid-adrenal connection
- And gut health
Each of these areas is incredibly important to thyroid patients because they directly impact thyroid hormone function.
And just taking a regular multivitamin or some zinc or selenium will NOT target these specific pathways.
There are certain combinations of nutrients, vitamins, and even botanicals that can help improve thyroid function but they are not even on the radar of most thyroid patients.
I would strongly encourage you to read more about the impact that supplements have on your thyroid and figure out which ones you might benefit from taking.
I’ve included some of the reasons below why these areas are so important and included links to my favorite products in each section:
- Thyroid hormone production – Your thyroid gland produces both T4 and T3 and these hormones require certain nutrients such as iodine and tyrosine in order to do this. If you don’t have these nutrients then your gland may not produce enough of the thyroid hormone that you need.
- Thyroid hormone conversion – Conversion is the process whereby your body ACTIVATES T4 thyroid hormone by turning it into T3. You can take special supplements to specifically help this occur.
- Thyroid receptor sensitivity – Your cells are either sensitive (or not) to thyroid hormone. You can take certain nutrients to improve this sensitivity to help your T3 work.
- Thyroid adrenal connection – Cortisol levels can negatively impact your thyroid. By treating your adrenals you can also treat your thyroid.
- Gut health – A large percentage of T4 is converted into the active thyroid hormone T3 in your gut. If you focus on your gut you can improve this conversion process and improve your T3 levels.
You can take more than one of the supplements above to help improve your thyroid function.
#3. Not paying attention to inflammatory oils.
One of the worst things you can do for your health and your thyroid is to consume what is known as inflammatory oils.
These are oils, found in pretty much every processed food, which cause inflammation and damage when consumed.
These oils are found just about EVERYWHERE and they are probably sabotaging your diet whether you realize it or not.
Just think about it:
Imagine you go through all of the effort to change your diet only to sabotage yourself because you are actually eating an unhealthy version of the healthy diet you are trying to eat.
This happens more than you think which is why we are talking about it here.
And just so we are on the same page, make sure you take a look at what kinds of fats I am talking about.
Inflammatory oils (5) include:
- “Vegetable” oils
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Safflower oil
- Soy oil
- Corn oil and all its derivatives
- Rapeseed oil and derivatives
- There are others but these are the most common
These fats are EVERYWHERE because they are so incredibly cheap.
Virtually every restaurant and every major food company will use these oils because of their price.
But even though they are cheap to create doesn’t mean they are cheap to consume.
You will eventually pay the price, in this case, your health, one way or the other.
No matter what diet you are using (or what foods you are eating) you need to make avoiding these fats a top priority.
There are two ways you can go about doing this:
#1. Look on the back of EVERY food you put into your mouth and look specifically at the ingredient list. If you see any of the oils listed above then DON’T EAT IT. You should also just assume that every place you eat out at is using these oils (another reason to not eat out!).
#2. Eat only healthy fats by cooking your own foods.
You can completely skip #1 if you stick to #2.
The list of healthy fats is far shorter than the list of unhealthy fats.
So, what should you be consuming?
Don’t let any oil touch your palate that isn’t the following:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
Seriously, it’s that simple.
Just only cook with these oils and you will be way better off.
And, you will probably notice that almost every restaurant you’ve ever been to will NOT cook with these oils.
Because they are significantly MORE expensive than the vegetable oils that I’ve listed above!
This is why I recommend that you do the majority of your own cooking because you can control which oils you use and which you don’t.
Avoiding these fats will help keep inflammatory levels down which will promote T4 to T3 conversion and a healthy thyroid!
#4. Avoiding certain vegetables.
A huge mistake that I see people make is the avoidance of certain vegetables.
Why would you avoid vegetables if you have thyroid disease?
If you aren’t familiar with the idea of goitrogens then let me explain.
There are certain compounds, called goitrogens, which can block the uptake of iodine into your thyroid gland.
These compounds are found in the environment but they also exist in certain foods.
And, you guessed it, certain vegetables (such as cruciferous vegetables) carry a goitrogenic effect.
Does this mean that eating vegetables will harm your thyroid?
Not at all, but this is what some people think.
What they forget to take into account is the positive effect that vegetables have on your health AND the relative goitrogenic effect that certain vegetables have.
Let’s consider an example:
I probably don’t need to convince you that vegetables are healthy for your body, right?
So let’s assume that consuming vegetables IS healthy for your body.
Let’s also assume that some vegetables carry this goitrogenic effect which can theoretically block your thyroid.
While this is theoretically true, the application of this effect is basically nonexistent.
Consuming these vegetables may have a 1% negative impact on your thyroid whereas they have a massive benefit from a positive perspective on your health.
So the trade-off between consuming vegetables will always outweigh the perceived negative goitrogenic effects that they may have.
I have only seen one case study where consuming kale has had any minor impact on thyroid function and the person consuming this kale was eating it for every meal every single day.
For most people, it’s just not possible to consume the sheer amount of cruciferous vegetables necessary to even put a dent in your thyroid function.
And, even if you were concerned about it, all you would need to do is STEAM your veggies prior to eating them.
Steaming has the beneficial effect of reducing goitrogens in food to render them even less effective.
Moral of the story?
Don’t avoid vegetables if you have thyroid disease because you are afraid that they will cause harm!
#5. Eating too much soy.
Soy, much like the industrial seed oils and bad fats we’ve already discussed, has a NEGATIVE impact on your thyroid (6).
Not only do they act as a goitrogen (already discussed) but they also can directly lower thyroid hormones such as T3 and T4.
And, unfortunately, soy-based products are commonly found in all types of processed foods.
In case you needed another reason to avoid processed foods, here it is!
In addition, almost all soy is genetically modified which probably also plays a role in how it impacts your health and your thyroid.
One big problem with soy is that there are some studies that show that it has potential positive health benefits.
This makes people think they can or should consume soy while others are left feeling confused.
In general, consuming soy which is non-GMO/organic may be okay for some people WITHOUT thyroid disease.
But due to the sheer percentage of genetically modified processed soy out in circulation, I recommend that all thyroid patients stay far away from soy.
Following this advice typically results in less inflammation and better thyroid hormone status.
So, avoid soy and soy-based products!
#6. Not paying attention to your adrenal function.
The last thing you need to pay attention to is your adrenal function.
And by adrenal function, I am really referring to your cortisol level.
Cortisol is a hormone that impacts several systems in your body including your thyroid.
Here’s how it works:
When you get stressed your cortisol level spikes.
This spike in cortisol helps your body cope with the stress but also impacts your thyroid.
Constant spiking of your cortisol eventually leads to cortisol receptor resistance and changes in your serum cortisol level.
These changes then impact your thyroid in a negative way.
So by ignoring your stress and your cortisol you are directly or indirectly (depending on how you look at it) hurting your thyroid gland.
So this can really be titled not paying attention to your stress level or not paying attention to your cortisol level.
Regardless of how you look at it, it’s something you need to be doing.
There are many ways and many therapies you can use to help manage both your stress and your cortisol so just make sure you are doing something.
Wrapping it up
I know how difficult it can be to get your doctor on board with you when it comes to treating your thyroid.
This is why it’s so important for you to take these things so seriously.
Even if your doctor isn’t willing to change up your medication or order the right lab tests, you can still make changes in your life that will impact your thyroid.
By getting rid of these habits you can naturally improve your thyroid function to help you feel better.
And, again, remember:
These therapies also help your GENERAL health.
So even if you don’t have a thyroid gland these things STILL help!
While your thyroid gland is a very sensitive tissue, your body still suffers when you are put under lots of stress or when you eat unhealthy foods.
But now I want to hear from you:
Are you currently doing any of these habits?
Did you know that they negatively impact your thyroid?
If you weren’t, are you thinking about making any changes to help your thyroid?
Are you already making some of these changes? If so, how are you feeling after?
Leave your questions or comments below!